Daily brief: 500 arrested in Karachi crackdown
New on bookshelves: Peter Bergen’s The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and al-Qaeda has been praised by the New York Times as "succinct and compelling" as well as "one of the most important accounts on the subject to appear in years." Available on Amazon.com. Crackdown in Karachi Following a week with more than ...
New on bookshelves: Peter Bergen's The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and al-Qaeda has been praised by the New York Times as "succinct and compelling" as well as "one of the most important accounts on the subject to appear in years." Available on Amazon.com.
New on bookshelves: Peter Bergen’s The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and al-Qaeda has been praised by the New York Times as "succinct and compelling" as well as "one of the most important accounts on the subject to appear in years." Available on Amazon.com.
Crackdown in Karachi
Following a week with more than 40 deaths in targeted killings in Pakistan’s commercial capital Karachi, where Pakistani authorities imposed a curfew yesterday, paramilitary Rangers went door to door in some areas and reportedly arrested more than 500 people suspected of involvement in violence (ET, Geo, ET, AP, WSJ, AP). Rangers also arrested a camera team from Geo News that was covering the crackdown, and the group’s footage was reportedly deleted (Geo).
After the assassination of Punjab’s governor Salmaan Taseer earlier this year apparently because of his support for reforming Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, the liberal Pakistani MP Sherry Rehman has been receiving two death threats an hour, and others also in favor of changing the laws have been threatened (Times, ET, BBC). Prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said yesterday that the laws will not be changed (CNN).
Early Saturday morning, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan set fire to at least 16 NATO fuel tankers in the southwest province of Baluchistan headed for coalition forces in Afghanistan, and a TTP spokesman told the AP, "We want to make very, very difficult all land routes for NATO in Pakistan" (AP, AFP, Guardian, ET). Another NATO oil tanker was targeted in the northwest earlier this morning (AFP). Britain is making moves to ban the TTP, making it illegal to fundraise of belong to the group in the U.K., and an anti-terrorism court in Peshawar is bringing evidence against the captured militant leader Maulana Sufi Muhammad at the end of this month (Reuters, Daily Times).
As many as 19 people were killed yesterday when a minibus traveling from Hangu to nearby Kohat after a remote controlled bomb exploded (BBC, AJE, The News, AP, Tolo, Daily Times). Also in Hangu, police said the bodies of four men accused of robbery and involvement in kidnapping were found with notes from the TTP claiming they had confessed (AP, Pajhwok, Geo). And the NYT reports that some American intelligence and military officials are finding the silver lining in Pakistan’s ongoing unwillingness or inability to carry out major operations in North Waziristan: "a rich hunting ground" for U.S. drone strikes as militants bottle up in the area (NYT).
Money makes the world go around
Afghanistan’s Chamber of Commerce has passed a resolution protesting Iran’s continuing blockade of fuel into the country, and more than 200,000 residents of Kabul have signed a petition objecting to the slowdown, which has around 2,500 fuel trucks stuck at three crossings between Iran and Afghanistan (AP, AP). Afghan businessmen have vowed to stop doing business with Iran because of the blockade, which has caused an increase in fuel prices of up to 70 percent.
Afghan authorities have opened an investigation into possible fraud at the Kabul Bank, where the IMF and Western officials have been pressing for an independent audit since last fall following a weeklong run on the bank (NYT). The Afghan government has also, controversially, started to send out overdue tax bills to foreign contractors operating in Afghanistan, who are tax exempt according to U.S. law and bilateral agreements, though Afghan and American authorities disagree on "what ‘tax-exempt’ means" (Post, NYT, Times). The Afghan government’s revenue is some $1.8 billion annually.
The Post reports on a new catchphrase in Kabul — "irreversible transition" — which was "coined to emphasize the U.S. goal to transfer security responsibility to the Afghans over the next four years in a way that guarantees that the Taliban will not prevail and that U.S. forces will not be dragged back into the fight" (Post). Diplomats in Kabul are reportedly worried that a plan to increase Afghan security forces by 24 percent, an additional 73,000 Afghan soldiers by October 2012, could be unsustainable.
In Sangin district in Helmand province, a U.S. Marine shot and killed an Afghan policeman who was allegedly threatening him by pointing a gun at the Marine, and the NYT reports that roadside bombings in Sangin "have been even worse" than insurgent fire (LAT, NYT). One of the Marines commented, "I hate it when it rains. The dirt runs together. We can’t see where they’ve dug in the IEDs." Local officials say around 80 percent of the schools in Helmand have been closed, and nearly 30 militants have been killed in a recent two-day operation there (Tolo, Pajhwok).
In the northern province of Baghlan, nine civilians were killed when a station wagon drove over a roadside bomb on Sunday, and in Kunduz, Afghan officials say 50 Taliban fighters have laid down their arms (AP, AFP). And the AP describes the "dizzying and increasing array of armed groups, including criminal gangs, drug traffickers and freelance militias" that operate in Afghanistan, in addition to the Taliban (AP).
Afghan National Olympic Committee members have donated sports equipment, including track suits, volleyballs, and basketballs, to prisoners in Pul-i-Charki on the outskirts of Kabul (Pajhwok). Wrestling mats, taekwondo gear, and weightlifting equipment are en route.
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